On Saturday, NASA launched an advanced space laser to monitor Earth’s melting ice.
The $1bn mission has been launched so that NASA can monitor Earth’s melting ice due to global warming. The space laser is NASA’s most advanced ever. The laser was launched on top on the Delta II rocket at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, with the launch window opening at 5:46 am local time on Saturday 15th September.
The significance of the mission
Richard Slonaker, the ICESAT-2 program executive at NASA, said that the mission is “exceptionally important for science.” The launch of the ICESAT-2 to monitor Earth’s melting ice is the first time in almost a decade since NASA has sent a tool in orbit to measure ice sheet surface elevation on Earth. The previous mission was called ICESat and ended in 2009. The ICESat mission informed scientists that sea ice was thinning and the ice cover in coastal areas in Greeland and Antarctica was disappearing.
An updated knowledge of the Earth’s melting ice is needed so that scientists can observe how the ice is changing. Global temperatures have been rising at an alarming rate, and sea level rise is threatening coastlines. Tom Wagner, a cryosphere program scientist at NASA, said: “Adding this precise level of data to that collected in prior years should boost scientists’ understanding of climate change and improve forecasts of sea level rise.”
The advanced space laser
The space laser is called ICESat-2. It weighs half a ton and is approximately the same size of a smart-car. The lasers which the ICESat-2 is equipped with are far more advanced that that of its predecessor the ICESat and will fire 10,000 times per second. The ICESAT-2 will observe Earth’s melting ice from around 300 miles above the Earth. Despite the power of the advanced lasers on board, NASA have confirmed that the lasers are not hot enough to melt any more ice from this position.
The mission is expected to last for three years, and will measure the area, slope, and height of Earth’s ice.